Russia has recently agreed to ship S-300 missile defence systems to Iran, in an $800 million dollar deal that has been postponed since 2009 due to soon-to-be-lifted sanctions, and reactions are unsurprisingly mixed.
The delivery of the system, meant to be purely for defensive purposes, was never covered under any sanctions against Iran, but Russia agreed to halt the order on request of the United States. Several years have passed since then however, which have left Moscow and Washington on less than ideal terms while Tehran is going in the opposite direction. “Now that there is obvious progress on the Iranian track, we do not see why we should continue imposing this ban unilaterally,” President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. Russia’s economy has also been suffering from its own set of sanctions due to its actions in Ukraine, in addition to the falling price of oil, making such a large deal even more appealing than it was six years ago.
The United States doesn’t appear concerned over the deal, given the defensive nature of the systems, and President Barack Obama even expressed surprise that Russia hadn’t done it sooner. However, for the US’ biggest ally in the Middle East, the reaction was considerably less calm. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was furious that Iran was exercising its right to defend itself, as well as the Americans’ reaction to the news, and immediately contacted Putin to make him reconsider. His office then released a statement saying that the delivery “will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East.”
In a further act of retaliation, Israel is now considering sending weapons to Ukraine, which has been in conflict with Russian-backed rebels for over a year. Putin, who has already expressed dismay over American troops being sent to the area-while still maintaining that “there are no Russian troops in Ukraine”-called the Israeli move “counterproductive,” particularly if the weapons are lethal, as opposed to his government’s shipments to Iran. But that would only be true if Netanyahu was trying to prevent war-which he most definitely is not.
And the same goes for Putin, who is equally thirsty for conflict, albeit with a different country.